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The Sequester: Massive Cuts or The Dog That Didn't Bite

on Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:07

Hardly a week goes by without either the Pentagon itself or some establishment figure bemoaning the fiscal cliff deal and sequester whose cuts to the military budget began in 2013. Media outlets amplify and blindly parrot these dire warnings regarding the U.S. military's ability to keep America safe if the sequester cuts are not rolled back.

But how bad have these cuts really been?

A recent look at the numbers suggests not bad at all.

For instance, according to the Government Printing Office the original 2011 Budget Control Act (popularly known as the fiscal cliff deal) promulgated cuts of some $54 billion per year to military spending beginning in Fiscal Year 2013. Instead however the American Taxpayer Relief Act, among other things, first reduced those cuts to $17.4 billion and then hacked off another $6 billion (according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments). This meant that the real cut to the Fiscal Year 2013 Department of Defense Budget was $31.2 Billion. Not chump change but to put that number in context it represents just over 5% of the base Department of Defense budget minus separate funding for nuclear weapons (Department of Energy), veterans affairs, and the slush fund officially titled “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO). This final category represents "War funding" and has averaged around $100 billion per year since 2003 (or equal to approx. 20% of the base defense budget tacked on as a supplement).

As we will soon see this "War funding" loophole came into full play in Fiscal Year 2014. In that year Congresscritters and the Pentagon got alot more creative. They managed to reduce the original sequester's mandated $54.6 billion in cuts down to $3.4 billion of actual cuts, or .62% of the base Department of Defense budget. Thanks to the House Budget Committee $20.382 Billion in cuts were waived. From there the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has found that another $20 Billion in cuts were waived by using the good old "War funding" loophole/slush fund. House appropriators added another $10.8 Billion into the kitty (with the source here being the Project on Government Oversight). This left the actual cut at a mere $3.4 Billion.

Of course, you would never know any of this if you listened to the Pentagon, Congress, or major defense contractors; whose view points are uncritically passed along by the media.

So the real question here is where has all this money gone?

Perhaps into buying an aircraft that in fifteen years of development has not only become the most bloated weapons program in history, but also still can't go hardly more than a month or two without being grounded....With mind you all of this occuring while the most effective ground attack aircraft in military history is being prematurely retired.

But hey corporate welfare doesn't come cheap, and why keep proven warriors flying when you can buy new ones.


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